With the Texan-less bye week approaching, a few BRB staffers are here to weigh in on how the season’s fortunes have been altered - from major injuries on defense to a major talent injection on offense. With the Houston offense suddenly a juggernaut, up is down, down is up...but the bye week, as always, still sucks. For the bye, Texans PR should just follow Deshaun Watson around all week as he heals the sick, feeds the hungry, and brings political unity to the country.
Before the season started, I predicted your Houston Texans would start 3-4 before Deshaun Watson led them to an 8-1 finish. I further asserted that the Texans would win the AFC South and lose in the divisional round of the NFL Playoffs to the Steelers.
Some things have changed since then. DW4 was promoted to the starting lineup quicker than I thought he'd be, and he's played better than anyone could have reasonably hoped. J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus have been lost for the year, significantly weakening a defense that wasn't exactly lighting the world on fire before those season-ending injuries.
No matter. I stand by my predictions, though I admit there is some temptation to adjust that 11-5 to 10-6. This team is winning the division. Deshaun Watson, with tremendous coaching and adjustments by Bill O'Brien (how about that?), will save us all. Houston's offense is now legitimately explosive, and that can offset a whole lot of defensive struggles. Furthermore, I expect Mike Vrabel to continue to grow as a defensive coordinator; he's been dealt a tough hand in losing Watt and Mercilus, but there's enough talent for his charges to be an average or mediocre defense. I don't expect the Texans' special teams to improve at all, though I think the presence of John Christian Ka'iminoeauloameka'ikeokekumupa'a "Ka'imi" Fairbairn alone makes that unit markedly better than it was last year.
The Colts aren't a good football team, and I doubt Andrew Luck is returning this year. The Titans are inconsistent and were clobbered by 43 POINTS when they last played the Texans. The Jaguars' defense is legitimately fantastic, and the division title could well come down to when Jacksonville hosts the Texans on December 17th.
I choose to ride with Deshaun Watson instead of Blake Bortles.
Titan Matt Weston, Slanderer of Blade Runner (but a Staunch Lover of Blade Runner 2049) and a Huge Fan of the Texas Rangers, Who is Keeping His Glee Over Astros Fans’ Current Misery to Himself - but I See Through It:
When Luke and I previewed the Texans' season on BRR, I asked him if he would consider this season a success if Deshaun Watson threw 30 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, but the Texans missed the playoffs. I thought that first batch of numbers was outlandish and dropped them down
But here we are, and it looks like Watson is going to break that barrier easily. Houston finally has a franchise quarterback. No matter what happens from here on out, 2017 is beautiful. It's like a light that bathes everything in bronze thirty minutes before sunset. All of that garbage quarterback play we had to wade through seems gone forever.
That being said, I'm not 100% in on this team making the playoffs. We have no idea what this defense is going to be like after losing their two best defensive players. The Cleveland Browns have one of the worst offenses in the NFL. Houston’s secondary isn't like it was last year and will have problems making up for a mediocre pass rush. It's going to be up to the offense to carry this team.
Even though Watson is the greatest quarterback of all time, I can't be fully confident in the offense scoring 30 points a game. Against bad defenses like New England (32nd in defensive DVOA and 30th in pass defense DVOA), Tennessee (26th in defensive DVOA and 25th in pass defense DVOA), and Cleveland (25th in defensive DVOA and 32nd in pass defense DVOA), the Texans have scored 41 points per game. Against good defenses, including Jacksonville, the Texans have scored 18 points a game. Until we see this offense put 28 on a great defense, I'm skeptical of the Texans’ chances to play past Week 17.
Regardless, all this analysis doesn't matter. The Texans have Deshaun Watson. That's the only thing that does.
As cool and rad as these last four weeks have been, I think there could be some regression on its way.
The Texans still have to face the two best teams in the AFC North (Steelers and Ravens), the Jags for a second time, the Rams, and the Seahawks. If they were to lose those five games (and I think they will), that would put the Texans at eight losses, which I think is a reasonable estimate for the best case scenario for the Texans’ season.
As much as things have changed over the first six weeks of the season, things have also stayed the same. The offensive gains have been offset by defensive losses to the point that I don't think the team as a whole is markedly better that it was at the beginning of the season. It's just gotten better in certain areas and worse in others.
The Texans probably won't make the playoffs. I think the Jags and Titans have more sustainable offenses, and in the case of the Jags, a FAR better defense. This is the AFC South though, so y'know, take comfort in that fact.
If the season ends up being a pyrrhic victory because of Deshaun Watson's emergence, I'll take that victory and start looking forward to next season.
Do I think the Texans make the playoffs this year? Probably not. The defense just has too many holes with Watt and Mercilus injured, Dylan Cole on the mend, and who knows how long Kevin Johnson will stay healthy when he gets back. The offensive line is still a cluster[kitten] of Tom Cable-ian proportions, and the Browns game showed that teams are starting to game plan more around Deshaun Watson and how to stop him.
I think there are just too many problems for this team to overcome to either make the playoffs or make a run if they do get in.
But that's okay. Why?
Have you ever played the old “Mega Man” or “Mega Man X” games? If you don't know what those are, I can't friggin' help you. Anyway, imagine you play through a stage and in the course of getting through it, you rack up a couple of extra lives. By the time you get to the robot master's layer, you're banged up, you have no energy tanks to refill your life meter, you have all your special weapons at full capacity, and you have those extra lives. So you go in, fight the robot master, and die almost immediately without using your special weapon.
That's kind how I see the Texans' situation this season. They're not in the best shape to take on the league this year, but they have the extra lives (Watson), special weapons (the offense), and the next time they face the boss, they'll be entirely healthy (return of Watt, Mercilus, etc.).
In the long run, it's a damn good position to be in, and the Texans, like Mega Man, are in a damn good position.
I can't explain how excited I am about the offense with Deshaun Watson. He's just as electric in Houston as he was in Clemson, and bringing that college level of offensive explosion to the pros is usually something you only see when you're playing Madden on the Playstation or X-Box. The best part about it is I'm pretty sure we've yet to see what this offense can really do; they're just getting started. Imagine what Watson could do if Duane Brown hadn't chosen to hold out?
Defensively, I have mad respect for Mike Vrabel and Romeo Crennel. I still think this team has more available talent on that side of the ball than New England did during their Super Bowl years. It's just a matter of the coaches continuing to put the right players in the right places to give them the best chance to succeed.
On special teams, it still feels a lot like the same-old, same-old. But Fairbairn has a live leg on him, so that's a nice upgrade. With Shane Lechler still drinking Fountain Of Youth ale, we may have the best kicker combo since Oakland drafted Lechler and Sebastian Janikowski. Now if only the return and coverage units could start adding at least one highlight reel play a game, they might be in business.
It's one thing to watch a lights-out defense carry a team from crap to mediocrity. A struggling offense just sucks all the excitement out of watching a team. An amazing offense dragging a team from crap to mediocre is still fun to watch.
Thankfully, this team is far from crap. Last year, they went 9-7 with a lot of the same personnel and Brock Osweiler commanding the offense. The upgrade in quarterback alone should overshadow the losses on defense all day long.
Feel free to give us your random and related bye week thoughts on the Houston Texans in the comments section below.
How do you see the rest of the season shaking out? Do you see Watson continuing to deliver against, on paper, a much more difficult slate of defenses? Can the defense keep things together and at least hold at average, or do you think it will bottom out?